Sunday, March 10, 2013

Let’s hear it for the introverts.

I am an introvert.

That might surprise some people who know me as I am the guy goofing around in the hallways, chatting up parents in front of the school, making guests to our school feel comfortable and welcome, and cracking jokes with everyone.  I’ve led  schoolwide events, I’ve given more workshops than I can remember, and I’ve done a conference closing speech for senators and MPs. 

But last week, in a meeting with four other people, all of whom I know and like, I became tongue-tied, my face was flushed, and I had an urge to leave so I could throw up.  Why?  Because of this question: “What do you think, Greg?”

In all my public sessions, I am usually the one in control or I’ve rehearsed it so much I don’t even have to think.  I am better at asking questions than answering them. 

There was this one time a textbook company wanted me to do a video for them.  They sent me some ideas, but I didn’t like any of them.  They finally asked, “What DO you want to do?”  I ended up interviewing five teachers I knew about interesting things they were doing in their classrooms.  It went really well!  That is until at the very end, the production company asked me say three lines, welcoming viewers, introducing the topic, and introducing myself.  It was awful!  The producers were so unreasonable, and asked me to do unreasonable things like: remember the three things I was supposed to say, smile, remember what my name was, etc.  I think it was 20 takes when they said, they had what they needed (they didn’t) and they could splice different takes together (splice a six second intro?).

The point is, as teachers we need to be mindful of our introverts, (especially when they don’t seem like introverts).  Susan Cain has a wonderful TedTalk (and book) on the Power of Introverts.


She reminds me that introverts need time and space to gather their thoughts or to be away from others so they can recharge, so they can eventually rejoin the group.  I am hoping that if I create private (cave) spaces where students can go to be by themselves, it will give introverts a safe place. 

Here are the cave spaces in my room:

  • the sitting easel spaces
  • standing spots at the bulletin board
  • in the corner with a pillow
  • out in the hall when things in the class get too loud

We introverts can’t be in the group the WHOLE time.  It is just not productive or calming for us (remember dorm life?) to be engaged with the entire class or even small groups constantly.  I am all about community, but community is also about giving individuals what they need.

On the personal end, I know I need time away from people.  I love my family and they understand my need for alone time.  The truth is, I can barely stand to be with myself all the time.  Maybe God invented sleep just to give me a break from myself.



  1. I am an extreme extrovert, but I ♥ my introverts. Thank goodness for them. If the world was filled with only extroverts, it would be an exhausting and overwhelming place to live! We ALL need downtime and alone time, and especially if our interactions with others feel more draining than energizing. I work in a computer lab where it is actually more of a struggle to get students to collaborate. It reminds me to keep a balance too. Thanks, Greg!

  2. Good point, Elaan. Balance is important. Don't get me wrong, I love people but I need long stretches of time to process everything on my own. Blogging helps.